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shameless pleading





July 2011 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


Stop the presses! After mulling over my savage pan of All Things Bright and Sweaty last month, I finally thought of something nice to say about summer.

This was not easy. As I write this, the Heat Index is 110 degrees and I’m not allowed to play outside. OK with me. As I’ve mentioned, due to my ms, above about 75 my legs stop working, my vision blurs, and I fall over sideways. So I don’t go outside much, but it’s no great loss. There’s nothing out there but biting flies and snakes and gray, soupy air. It’s like Jurassic Farm, especially at night. It also smells foul, partly from the paper mill ten miles southwest of us, partly from Toxco two miles down the road (I am not making that name up), and partly because the fields surrounding us have been repeatedly doused with herbicides and pesticides for the past month. Thanks, Farmer Bob.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m dreaming about the heat, like in that old Twilight Zone episode. Every so often it rains in small, exceedingly strange and violent thunderstorms. Yesterday we lost power for about four hours, but we bailed out after two and drove to Bob Evans. They were close to closing, so they put three sandwiches worth of chicken salad on mine, and the french fries were actually hot. High point of the week.

Incidentally, the columns in this issue were sent to subscribers back in January, so if you’re feeling faint from the heat you might try printing them out and holding them against the back of your neck. And don’t forget that the mere act of subscribing will make you feel better.

Speaking of dreams, we finally watched last year’s Inception on the DVR. Well, at least it wasn’t Avatar. I found it a bit frustrating, because the first half of the movie sets up some interesting ideas and subplots, which seem like they’re going to be developed in the second half. And they are, sort of. But first the whole thing turns into a standard Hollywood heist film (Assemble the team! Preferably by flying all over the world! Because nobody has cell phones!). And then it turns into Mission Impossible 10 with way too many pointless gunfights and car chases, and the interesting ideas, along with the main plot line, sort of melt into a half-hearted puddle. But at least it wasn’t Avatar. Avatar was genuine torture.

Before I forget again, please send me your questions. I need questions! Lots of questions! The more detailed the better, but just a bit about what you think about the term, where you heard it, etc., would help. As an inducement, if I pick your question as the basis for a column, you’ll automatically receive a free one-year subscription to TWD-by-Email. Or not. Your choice. Anyway, bring out your questions!

Thanks to the person who sent me a Google+ invite. They seem to be doing things quite a bit better than Facebook does, especially regarding privacy. The “circles” thing is a definite improvement over undifferentiated “friends.”

Oh, right, I was saying something nice about summer. Ready? No school buses.

Here’s the thing. We live on a typical rural Midwestern road, a two-lane blacktop (really 1-1/2 lanes) with no shoulder, and scary-deep drainage ditches on both sides awaiting the unwary. “Town” (gas station, post office, hardware store, tiny drugstore, dive bar and several not-good pizza shops) is about three miles down the road. So when you have to go there, you drive between immense fields of corn or soybeans (they alternate crops every year) until you reach the first problem, which is a sharp curve at the corner of one of the larger fields. If the crop is soybeans, no problemo; you can see what’s coming from the other direction. If it’s corn, you’re screwed; you’d think that cars coming into a tight blind curve would slow down and stick to their own side, but you’d be wrong. We’ve had several close calls at that curve with morons going way too fast in the wrong lane. The speed limit for most of this road is 45 mph, which is nuts, and many people try to take this curve at 35-45. A substantial percentage fail, as evidenced by the permanent deep wheel ruts at its apex leading to the newest telephone pole on the road. It’s always the newest pole on the road.

If you survive that curve, you drive another half-mile until you reach the woods, where things get really interesting. The road rises and then dips sharply, and at the bottom of the hill it takes a 90-degree twist to the left as it rises steeply into the woods. It’s exactly the sort of gut-wrenching dive and twist you find on roller coasters.

Bon Voyage, Bucko

If, perchance, you should miss the turn through inattention, you’ll quickly find yourself airborne above a 30-foot drop into the old Ohio & Erie Canal with only some sparse and scraggly trees to break your fall. Yes, people have done this. No, there is no guard rail, but there is a nice series of little yellow signs pointing to the left, all of which have been hit at least once.

The speed limit here is 25 mph, but you’d be insane to take it at more than about ten. And again, the real problem here is the imbeciles who come shooting into that curve doing 45 mph and wind up going sideways in your lane. Let’s just say that it’s drivers like that who make it profitable for our tiny county to have not one, but two full-time medical evacuation helicopters based here.

Anyway, if you survive that bit of fun, you’ve got a straight shot to town through the woods, albeit with the canal cut on one side and a similar drop to the fields on the other. (The road alongside the canal is actually built on the mounds of earth they removed while digging the canal back in the 19th century. This bit is the deepest cut they had to make in the entire length of the canal.)

Then there’s one last blind hump and plunge, and you’re in town. Whee! For extra fun, be sure to try this ride in the winter when the road is covered in ice.

So the real problem with this road is the other drivers, many of whom are our neighbors, many of whose driving skills lack … finesse. I mean c’mon, you live on this road — why would you take that curve on the wrong side? Can’t you envision the possibility that it might be your own kid coming the other way?

But in the local pantheon of stupid and scary, nobody can come close to the school bus drivers. We have complained, our neighbors have complained, the parents of the terrified children who ride the bus have complained, year after year. But twice every weekday afternoon during the school year, the Big Yellow Horror comes roaring around those curves completely on the wrong side of the road going way, way too fast, like something out of a Stephen King story. All you can do, if you’re driving this stretch right after school gets out, is to stop well before you get to the woods and peer through the foliage, looking for a glimpse of yellow. Or you just wait until 4 pm, after which the coast is clear. Too bad the post office closes at four, huh?

So no school, no school bus, hooray for summer. End of rant.

Maybe I’ll go hang out at the post office. Their air-conditioning is absolutely polar.

Lastly, please subscribe.

And now, on with the show….

1 comment to July 2011 Issue

  • Brain

    I love everything by Stephen King. He is supposed to be the ‘master of the horror.’ Why is it that I don’t dislike anything by him, but I hate movies such as the Saw series. I thought it might be the gore, but then I realized Stephen King has much gore in many parts of his stories/movies.

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